Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in October 2023. (File photo)
The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and other parties staged protests last year to demand the resignation of the prime minister and promote a government neutral interim to supervise the elections, but without success.
On Saturday, police arrested seven BNP members, including a senior party official in Dhaka, accused of sabotage after a fire the day before on a crowded commuter train that killed at least four people and injured eight.
Several fires have occurred since last year on the railway network and Sheikh Hasina accused the BNP of being behind them.
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These acts are planned by the government to discredit the BNP, a non-violent movement and distract people's attention from this parody of elections, A.K.M. told AFP. Wahiduzzaman, the spokesperson for the opposition party.
Some 25,000 opposition leaders, including all local BNP leaders, were arrested in a wave of repression that followed last year's protests, during which several people were arrested. killed in clashes with police, according to the party. The government, for its part, reported 11,000 arrests.
A few hundred opposition supporters marched in central Dhaka on Friday , far from the hundreds of thousands of people who participated in the rallies last year.
The political scene in the country of 170 million people has long been dominated by the rivalry between Sheikh Hasina, the daughter of the country's founder, and Khaleda Zia, a two-time prime minister and wife of a former leader. military.
Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) President Khaleda Zia in 2014. (File photo)
Since returning to power in 2009, Hasina, 76, has strengthened her control after two elections marred by irregularities and accusations of fraud.
Convicted of corruption in 2018, Khaleda Zia, 78, is being held in a hospital in the capital Dhaka due to poor health.
Her son Tarique Rahman leads the BNP in his place from London, where he has lived in exile since 2008, after several convictions in his country.
He told the #x27;AFP that his party, along with dozens of others, refused to participate in an election whose outcome was predetermined.
Bangladesh security forces have long been accused of excessive use of force, which the government denies.
The United States, Bangladesh's largest export market, has sanctioned an elite police unit and its commanders, accused of numerous extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances.
The success of her economic policy has long guaranteed Sheikh Hasina's popularity. However, challenges have increased recently, with rising prices for most commodities and widespread power outages in 2022.
The refusal of wage increases demanded by textile workers, a sector which generates 85% of the country's $55 billion in annual exports, triggered social unrest at the end of 2023, with factories burned and hundreds of x27;others closed.
The government is less popular than a few years ago, but Bangladeshis have few real options in office voting, recalls Pierre Prakash of the International Crisis Group. These frustrations could portend political violence, he believes. This is a potentially dangerous combination.